Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gavouna - Stings & Dum Machines (2005)


I really feel like more people should be aware of this fine album, and Gavouna in general. It's a fantastic record and if you like it please go out and support the artist.

Gavouna is the alias of Athens-born, London based Athanasios Argianas, who studied under a pupil of Xenakis and Berio. Here he gives us his utterly charming (if r-phobically titled) Stings & Dum Machines. While short at 37 minutes, the ten instrumentals on Argianas's debut enter with sinuous melodies and timbral arrangements of strings, electronics, mallet percussion, and, yes, drum machines. The album's distinctive sound is attributable to Argianas's rather retrograde sound sources (i.e., antiquated electronics) and, as a result, Gavouna's music sounds 'hand-made,' even if that's not literally the case.

What makes the album most captivating, however, is not just its unusual sound but the caliber of its compositions. The orchestral folk swing of “Three” is a prime example. Featuring animated vibes melodies and Konrad K√∂hler's multi-layered strings, the unusual yet engaging piece captures some flavour of Argianas's Athens, Greek heritage. A similar impression emerges in “One Four” when strings (violins, cellos) and horns (trumpets) etch dreamy Eastern melodies. In the emotionally arresting “Leo & Lydia,” the deep bowings of an aching cello introduce a veritable orchestra of see-sawing strings, with the composition further distinguished by a mournful warble that pierces the song's electronic haze. Similar theremin-like electronics dominate the becalmed setting “Ondespiece,” while a lush string- and horn-centered arrangement in the melancholy “Lament” (based on Isan's “Kittenplan A”) makes for a memorable outro. Given its almost cinematic aura, one could easily hear Stings and Dum Machines as the regrettably lost soundtrack to a 1970s Greek film.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mulatu Astatke

Download Mulatu Astatke - Afro-Latin Soul Vol. 1 & 2 (1966)
Download Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu of Ethiopia (1972)
Download Mulatu Astatke - Ethiopiques Vol. 4 (1998)
Download Mulatu Astatke - Emnete EP (2005)

In the late 1990s the French label Buda Musique released Volume Four of it’s Ethiopiques series; a series that focused attention on the fertile but overlooked musical era of Ethiopian popular music (1968 to 1974), for which band-leader/composer/arranger/musician Mulatu Astatke was a pivotal figure. This volume was the first in the series to focus on an individual artist, as well as the first to be made up entirely of instrumentals.

What Mr. Astatke created during that era was a unique amalgamation of musical ideas — successfully integrating the melodies of Ethiopia with the jazz and Latin music he fell in love with while performing and studying abroad. His compositions, beautiful in their simplicity, have a smoky late-night vibe; while his arrangements combine percolating Latin percussion, choruses of swirling Middle Eastern horns, Hendrix style guitar sounds and his own liquid organ and vibe playing to form a dense and intoxicating groove. Essential.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bullion - Pet Sound: In The Key Of Dee (2007)


London producer Bullion has taken his sample inspiration from two very different sources for this free remix album Pet Sounds: In the Key of Dee. Using samples from the great Pet Sounds and J Dilla’s repetoire, Bullion has created something wholly unique and refreshing. It’s not a mashup album as he at pains to point out, but it does mix samples from these two artists to great effect. The ultimate kudos must go to Bullion however, who spliced and diced these samples with his own superb production.

I fucking love it. Nightly.